Bianca Buitendag (ZAF) has been on a tear, moving up three spots on the elite women's Jeep rankings to World No. 6. After finishing runner-up at the Oi Rio Women's Pro in May, she earned four near-perfect rides in Fiji on her way to another runner-up finish there.
But growing up in South Africa, beachbreaks like the one in Huntington Beach, Calif. -- home of the women's next CT contest, the Vans US Open of Surfing -- pose a new challenge. Buitendag recently discussed how she's prepping for the Open, her religious faith, and what it's like being so tall (she's 6'1").
World Surf League (WSL): How are you preparing for the beachbreak at the US Open?
Bianca Buitendag: It's hard because I grew up here [in South Africa]. I've been way more comfortable in pointbreaks in general. I did go to France for a long time during my junior career to get used to beachbreaks specifically so I think the best way to get used to a beachbreak is just to go there. I'm going to Huntington relatively early with a whole new quiver, a whole new mindset, a whole new way of surfing.
WSL: With back-to-back Finals do you feel more confident going into the next event? Do you feel another Final appearance coming?
BB: I never feel another one coming. It's heat by heat. I don't think you can expect anything. Obviously you work toward something but you can't expect it to happen. Plus, like I said, beachbreaks are very different than what I'm used to and very different than [the last women's CT event in] Fiji so I'm just going to try to do my best to adapt to the different waves.
WSL: As you move up the rankings do you feel more pressure?
BB: There's less pressure because I don't have to think about requalification.
WSL: What's it like being so tall?
BB: It's pretty cool. You can see above everybody else. [Laughs]. No, I'm kidding. There's nothing you can do about it so you might as well just get comfortable.
WSL: You had a proverb written on the bottom of the board you had on the podium at the Oi Rio Women's Pro: "The grace he has offered so freely." What does that mean to you and what role does religion play in your surfing?
BB: It's about God and about how he offers us unconditional love and finding an identity in that. It's something I found when I first started competing and it's a priority in my life. It's an expression of the opportunities and talent he has given me. [Those things are] not mine. Religion plays a big role in my life and surfing's part of my life.